The Difference Between Montessori and Daycare

When children are born and up until they are about six years old, their early experiences lay the groundwork for their future behavior, health, abilities, and interests as adults. To put it another way, early childhood has a significant impact on the overall trajectory of human life. Not only because it may be the first time your child has spent a significant amount of time away from home, but also because daycare can have a significant impact on a child's growth and development, making the decision to send your child to daycare should be taken very seriously.

Growing international recognition for Montessori as an effective educational model for young children has led to an increase in the number of families considering Montessori as a daycare option. Montessori schools and daycare centers, on the other hand, while both attempting to meet the needs of young children, the methods they use to do so — and the outcomes that result — are diametrically opposed to one another.

Let's start by defining what daycare is and is not.

Daycare is a facility where professionals assist in meeting the needs of people who are unable to care for themselves, such as children or the elderly. Despite the fact that there are numerous types of daycare for children, including nannies and family child care homes, the center-based arrangements, such as preschools, childcare centers, and Head Start programs, are the most popular choices for parents and caregivers. In many cases, these daycare centers are housed in non-residential buildings large enough to accommodate at least one classroom, and they include drop-off and pick-up areas as well as private outdoor play areas. In most cases, they provide services for a half- or full-day period, which may include meals and naps as well as activities, field trips, before and after-school care.

Montessori schools, in this regard, are very similar to daycare centers. Early in the morning, a parent can drop her son off at Montessori school, and pick him up in the early afternoon (or later in the day, depending on which program she has selected). The mother is confident that, while her child is at Montessori school, the staff is meeting his physical and emotional needs, as well as providing him with a wide range of engaging activities, either on an individual basis or as part of a small group setting. Montessori schools are also subject to the same government regulations as daycare centers, which means that a Montessori school and a daycare center in the same state in the United States will have to meet the same minimum standards for things like food safety and staff-to-child ratios.

It has been discovered through research in the field of education that there are significant differences between the ways in which Montessori schools and traditional daycare centers operate. Parents who send their children to a Montessori school should expect to see a significant acceleration in their child's development. Even when daycare providers do not emphasize education as part of their service, childhood development is referred to as a student outcome in the context of daycare. It refers to the educational, societal, and general life consequences that result from the child's involvement.

What happens to a child when he or she attends Montessori school rather than a daycare center is the question.

In studies, it has been found that, when children are first enrolled in some form of daycare (usually when they are between the ages of two and three years old), there is little variation in their test scores. Regardless of whether children enroll in a Montessori school, a traditional daycare center, or a play-based child care center, their developmental milestones begin at roughly the same level regardless of where they are raised. Children who attend Montessori schools, on the other hand, outperform their peers who attend other types of daycare in terms of academic achievement, social and emotional development, and overall happiness over the course of their lives.

Accomplishment in the classroom

While there is no statistically significant difference in intelligence levels between young children at the start of preschool, children enrolled in Montessori schools progress at a faster rate in terms of reading, vocabulary, and numerical understanding than their peers. Two major external factors that influence children's academic development are family income and executive functioning skills, both of which are associated with a large achievement gap between the most successful and least successful child in a given class on average (such as working memory and self-control). To the surprise of many parents, not only do children who attend Montessori schools achieve higher levels of academic success, but the achievement gap narrows as well, so that children from less affluent families and those who lack executive functioning skills can essentially "catch up" with their peers.

The development of social and emotional skills

Professor of psychology Angeline Lillard believes that children who attend Montessori schools have better playground interactions than children who attend schools in more traditional environments. Studies that have included tests that predict later social competence have also found that children who attend Montessori schools tend to give more complex responses to social problems than their peers. A brainteaser used in Lillard's study (published in 2017) asked preschool-aged children how they would negotiate with another child in order to gain access to a valuable resource such as a swing set was one example provided. Among the well-considered responses were, I'd ask her to take turns — she could use it for 10 minutes, then I'd use it for 10 minutes, which stood in stark contrast to less sophisticated responses such as, I'd tell the teacher.

In general, people are happy.

Researchers have expressed concern that high levels of academic achievement in Montessori schools may come at the expense of children's enjoyment of the educational experience. Children who attend Montessori schools, on the other hand, tend to find scholarly tasks more enjoyable than children who attend traditional schools.

Preparing students for life after high school

In light of famous Montessori graduates such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, researchers have hypothesized that Montessori schools help children set themselves up for success by assisting them in the development of lifelong skills such as mastery orientation and a friendly relationship with failure. This is in stark contrast to traditional daycare, which places a strong emphasis on rote memorization and reward/punishment systems.

Researchers found that children from Montessori schools had stronger neural connectivity in the brain regions responsible for error recognition than children from traditional schools when they solved mathematical problems while undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This means that they were more adept at identifying and correcting their mistakes than children who attended traditional schooling environments.

Moreover, when given the opportunity, children who attend Montessori schools are more likely to take on challenging tasks because they begin to understand the relationship between taking on difficult tasks and growing as a human being. This is referred to as a mastery orientation or a growth mindset, and it is something that even adults strive for: the desire to continually improve one's abilities.

In the field of Montessori early childhood education, more research is required, particularly in the form of large-scale studies conducted over long periods of time. A significant portion of the challenge consists in contrasting educational systems with varying priorities. Taking a holistic approach to education, Montessori emphasizes the development of the whole child, including social, emotional, and physical development, in addition to academic success. When it comes to child development, daycare centers may place greater emphasis on one area of development, such as academic advancement, while neglecting other areas entirely. In spite of this, research has shown that children enrolled in Montessori schools outperform their peers in every area, regardless of the emphasis placed on academics, physical development, or open-ended play by their daycare providers.

What is the reason for this? The truth is that researchers aren't entirely certain. When it comes to comparing Montessori schools with daycare, there are two major areas of research that have not been thoroughly investigated: parent engagement and teacher influence. Montessori has only been around for a little over 100 years, so it is still considered to be in its relative infancy. As a result, parents who are drawn to Montessori may be less risk averse than those who choose to follow the more established traditional path. It is also possible that teachers working in Montessori schools, even if they have not received Montessori training, will find that the environment suits them better because they are naturally more sensitive and responsive.

It is possible that the combination of warmth, trust, and high expectations from teachers and parents, rather than the Montessori teaching methodology, is the magic bullet that allows children in Montessori schools to succeed in their studies. However, research has also demonstrated that children in higher-fidelity Montessori classrooms (where children only have access to Montessori materials and activities) make greater social and cognitive gains over the course of a school year than children in lower-fidelity classrooms (where children only have access to Montessori materials and activities). This strongly suggests that the operational style of Montessori schools makes a significant difference in the outcomes of students, and that the more authentic the approach, the better the results.

Operational style refers to the way Montessori schools and daycares operate on a daily basis.

As soon as you step into a Montessori classroom for the first time, you will be struck by the sense of peace that permeates the space. With a focus on keeping things simple, quiet, and uncluttered, each classroom is designed to appeal to a young child's sense of order as well as his or her desire to learn, as well as their appreciation for beauty. After a while, the lack of noise will become apparent, and you will begin to notice the low hum of industry as children move freely around the room — some engaged in conversation, others working alone; some sitting at desks, others on the floor. You might be perplexed as to where the teacher is and why all of the desks aren't oriented toward the blackboard. Montessori schools, on the other hand, are run in a completely different manner than conventional daycare centers.

Materials and classroom design that encourage students to engage in active exploration

An environment where the child is surrounded by learning materials that have been scientifically designed to meet his or her social and cognitive developmental needs is the hallmark of the Montessori classroom. He is free to experiment with a variety of activities during the morning and afternoon work cycles, which are designated periods of time during which the child will not be disturbed by the teacher, other children, or activities in a group setting. This aids in the development of concentration, willpower, and self-reliance in the child. Unlike traditional educational environments, daycare environments aim for entertainment rather than education; therefore, they often feature bright colors, poster-covered walls, noisy battery-powered toys, and furniture that children cannot use independently, such as coat pegs that are out of reach.

Groups of varying ages

It's become the social norm to separate children by age in schools, and traditional daycare tends to follow this model by grouping all of the two-year-olds together, all of the three-year-olds together and so on. Montessori schools, on the other hand, have mixed-age environments, such as the Children's House, which serves children ranging in age from 2.5 to 6 years old, among other things. As children and educators alike recognize that each child's interests, abilities, and stage of development differ, this helps to foster a sense of community and collaboration in the classroom, which benefits all students. Children enter the Children's House at the age of 2.5 years old and are inspired by the work of their older peers when they first enter the building. The six-year-old leaders they once looked up to develop into the leaders they once looked up to as they grow and begin to master the challenges and activities the classroom has in store for them. They embrace opportunities to lead and teach their younger classmates.


So long as they use the learning materials for their intended purpose, children are free to choose what they want to work on and where they want to work on it. Children develop internal discipline and social awareness as a result of having the freedom to move and choose. As a result of the intentional scarcity of Montessori learning materials (one set per classroom), children begin to recognize that when they are working on a particular set of materials, they are preventing another child from working on them. This provides them with additional motivation to treat communal objects with respect and to return them when they are finished so that someone else can benefit from them in the future. In most daycare settings, children do not have a say in what they do throughout the day; instead, they are assigned to specific activities at specific times, such as circle time in the morning and painting after lunch, with no consideration given to the preferences of each individual child.

A teacher whose primary responsibility is to guide rather than to instruct.

As an alternative to imposing her own will on the children, the teacher carefully selects the moments of instruction, offering lessons and presentations at appropriate junctures in each child's development, in order to maximize the amount of independent learning that each child can achieve. (This is why we refer to our teachers as "guides.") The goal of the guide is to actively nurture and support her students as they progress through what is fundamentally a child-directed process of growth and development.

The child's ability to learn on his or her own

While the guide gives lessons and gives presentations, adult-led activities do not constitute the majority of the class time because the guide's goal is to connect the child with his or her environment by showing him or her how to use the learning materials and, in some cases, by showing him or her how to evaluate his or her own work so that he or she does not need anyone to correct his or her mistakes. This allows for long stretches of peaceful, uninterrupted time during which each child can participate in activities that interest him or her individually. In most daycare settings, a child who is completely absorbed in an activity will actually have their concentration broken in order to participate in a group activity, such as circle time, and will be expected to retain all of the information learned from the teacher's lessons.

Lesson plans tailored to each student

Despite the fact that the child will not be aware of it, his guide will have a lesson plan that is specifically tailored to him for each day that he attends Montessori school. As part of her job as a guide, she will select specific areas of the curriculum to cover, which she will then weigh against the child's level of development and sensitivities in order to make the lesson as appealing as possible, with the goal of fostering the child's independent learning after the lesson is completed. This is in contrast to the majority of daycare arrangements, which adhere to a rigid curriculum of lessons to be delivered to individuals or groups at predetermined times, regardless of the children's individual interests.

a babysitting service or a driving force for social change

What truly distinguishes Montessori from other daycare options is the fact that it is founded on scientific observation and experimental design. A Montessori school's learning materials, as well as everything that takes place within the walls of the school building, are the result of years of trial and error as the method's founder discovered which activities and learning materials best supported the young children in her care. As a result, Montessori is referred to as "scientific pedagogy" in some circles. It is the only childcare option available on the market that is founded on scientific facts and general principles regarding the development of children.

The Montessori method, according to educational consultant Emily Schubitz, is a "developmental force rather than just a babysitting source," arguing that most daycares are designed to contain and entertain children, whereas Montessori environments actively seek to aid childhood development. Moreover, according to Schubitz, the secret to Montessori education is found in the way in which children are respected as individuals. A holistic approach is used to care for the whole child, not just their creative side or just their academic side — and this comprehensive approach is unmatched by any other daycare arrangement on the market, whether traditional, progressive or academically oriented.

Children who attend Montessori schools outperform their peers in every area of development, whether through higher academic test scores or higher levels of happiness. While many daycare centers now follow innovative, research-based programs, studies have shown that children who attend Montessori schools outperform their peers in every area of development. This is not to imply that all children who attend Montessori schools grow up to be successful and happy adults, and that all children who attend traditional daycare centers never achieve their potential. It simply draws attention to the fact that Montessori schools are more effective at assisting children's development than other daycare options.

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